Why is Beyoncé performing at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards?

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Country Music Association is pulling out all the stops for the 2016 Awards ceremony. After all, 50 years = Gold when referencing anniversaries — and in the music world, there isn’t a superstar bigger than Beyoncé.

The pop star has headed to Nashville, and it is rumored that she will make a surprise performance at the big event. This may sound unusual to her dedicated fan base — what’s up, BeyHive! — but the practice of having pop superstars perform at the CMAs is nothing new.

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The show’s recently made a habit of pairing country artists with popular musicians outside the genre to bring new eyes to the show and industry. You may remember the 2015 show, when Justin Timberlake took the stage to perform a duet with country artist Chris Stapleton, the big winner of the night — or possibly Thomas Rhett and Fall Out Boy’s mashup of “Crash and Burn” and “Uma Thurman.”

What Beyoncé would actually perform was a tightly guarded mystery right up until showtime: Would she take the stage for a duet, or — since the entire show will be dedicated to great country artists and songs of the past — do a cover, or even a medley? With Dolly Parton receiving the Willy Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, we could easily see Beyoncé tapping into her classic catalog… And the Twitter craze that would definitely follow.

But in the end, it was “Lemonade” standout “Daddy Lessons” that she performed, bringing the Dixie Chicks onstage — no strangers themselves to feminism, or controversy — in a demonstration of unity, power and celebration that showed us not only that with Taylor gone full-pop there are plenty of artists willing to cross over (witness Gaga’s “Joanna” this year as well) but gave a respectful and only slightly subversive reminder that country’s roots, just like rock, lie in Black culture, blues and soul music. We’re sure to hear from the pundits tomorrow, but for tonight we’re just happy to see some of our favorite stars in formation.

The 50th Annual CMA Awards airs Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

(Updated at 7:30 p.m. PT.)

Posted by:Aaron Pruner

When he was a child, Aaron memorized the entire television lineup, just for fun. He once played Charlize Theron’s boyfriend in a Japanese car commercial. Aaron’s a lover of burritos and a hater of clowns. TV words to live by: "Strippers do nothing for me, but I will take a free breakfast buffet any time, any place."